Kissinger on Foreign Policy
he really is one smart guy
I bought Henry Kissinger’s American Foreign Policy a while back. Now I am reading it, the Third Edition, published in 1977.
He starts with the the problem of bureaucracy. Basically there is a problem between the political leadership and the foreign policy bureaucracy. The bureaucrats are all specialized and siloed, and are nothing but a problem. But the political leader can’t ignore them, because they can do a lot of damage. He doesn’t mention Lord Salisbury, the British prime minister that ran foreign policy out of his back pocket in the late 19th century, and completely sidelined bureaucrats in the Foreign Office.
You an see where Kissinger is going on this. He operated as the personal advisor of Richard Nixon, but he couldn’t completely ignore the bureaucrats in the State Department, else they might have destroyed him. Hello Trump.
Then he talks about foreign policy leaders. There are three types of leader:
Bureaucratic-pragmatic leaders. They tend to be “ad hoc, pragmatic, and somewhat mechanical.” Kissinger says that this kind of leadership tends to be rigid, interspersed with “spasms of flexibility.” In other words, useless.
Ideological leaders. He means Communists. And they are a problem because they think they understand the world through “objective “ factors such as the social structure, economic process and class struggle. But the various Commies are different, depending on how close they are to their original “revolutionary fervor.” Kissinger says that ideology makes negotiation difficult, because the Commies all think they understand the world better than their capitalistic opposite numbers.
Charismatic-revolutionary Leaders. We must think of the type of person that has led a “struggle for independence.” This type of person is beyond ideology and beyond pragmatism. We are talking about a “commitment to a vision.” Kissinger says that these leaders tend to frustrate western leaders because, for the charismatic, economic development and prosperity are not as important as an adventurous foreign policy.
And that’s as far as I’ve got.
It’s interesting that in his Leadership, published in 2022, Kissinger — at age 99! — talks about leaders like Germany’s Konrad Adenauer and France’s Charles de Gaulle who both, I would say, soared far above these three categories. Adenauer sought to restore Germany’s greatness by submission to the western allies; de Gaulle sought to restore France’s sense of itself through challenging the Brits and the Yanks every chance he got. Go figure!